Category Archives: Soups/Stews

Busy Busy!

I have a slight obsession with soup, any time of year, any time of day, all day, every day I can and would eat soup! Just ask my husband, whenever he asks what I want or where I want to go to eat, he always has to say ‘besides soup!’ I frequently make my own so I have them for dinner a few nights a week while Josh is away at hockey…with a big hunk of crusty bread, it’s the perfect meal! So the other night I decided to make some cheesy broccoli cheddar soup with my cheesy beer bread to accompany it! And since I had quite a few bananas that were going bad, I decided to follow that up with some coconut rum banana bread! (Side note, I have noticed that the past few things I have baked recently have all contained booze in some form or another…not quite sure why, but they’ve all turned out deliciously)?!

Broccoli Cheddar Soup:

  • 5 T butter
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 2 cups whole milk or cream
  • 2 cups chicken broth, room temperature (just not cold)!
  • 2 heads broccoli, chopped
  • 1 cup carrots, shredded
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 bag sharp cheddar cheese

Melt butter in large saucepan over medium-high heat. In separate saucepan, heat milk over medium-low heat, keep warm. Add onion, saute until soft. Whisk in flour, cook for one minute. Slowly add in warm milk. Slowly add in chicken broth, whisking constantly. Bring to a boil, then simmer, whisking occasionally until thickened (about 20 minutes). Once thickened a little, add broccoli, carrots, salt and pepper to taste. Cook until vegetables are soft, about 20-25 more minutes. If desired, transfer 3/4 of the mixture to blender or food processor (or do as I did and use an immersion blender) to puree mixture. Pour back into saucepan and add cheese.

Cheesy Beer Bread:

  • 2 cups flour

    Moist, buttery, cheesy!!

  • 2 T sugar
  • 2 t baking powder
  • 1 t salt, divided
  • 10 ounces or 1 1/4 cups beer (guess you’ll just have to drink those last two ounces)!
  • 1 1/2 cups sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 t garlic powder, plus more for top
  • 1 t onion powder, plus more for top
  • 1 t mustard powder, plus more for top
  • 2 T butter, melted

Whisk together flour, sugar, baking powder, salt, garlic powder, onion powder and mustard powder. Slowly mix in beer with a wooden spoon or rubber spatula until just combined. Do not over-mix. Add in cheese, until just combined. Pour (I use this word lightly as the batter is very thick and will not ‘pour’) into a 9X5 loaf pan. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit in a warm area for 30 minutes. The dough will puff lightly and grow a little in the pan. Brush the top with the melted butter and sprinkle more seasonings over top. Bake at 375 for 30 minutes.

View from the top of the buttery, salty, crust!

Coconut Rum Banana Bread:

  • 2 cups flour

    Look at all that coconutty goodness!

  • 1 t baking soda
  • dash of salt
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup butter, room temp
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 1/2 t vanilla
  • 4 T Captain Morgan (or other rum you like/have on hand)!
  • 3 mashed bananas
  • 1 1/2 cups coconut

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, grease 9X5 loaf pan. Combine flour, soda, salt and cinnamon in bowl, whisk together and set aside. Cream butter and sugar until smooth. Add in eggs one at a time, blending after each addition. Add in vanilla, then rum. Fold in bananas and coconut then gently fold in flour mixture until just incorporated. Pour batter into loaf pan, top with cinnamon sugar mixture (or crumb topping, etc). Bake about 45 minutes. Cool on wire rack.


More Beer Please!

As a non-beer drinker, I was surprised to fall in love with bakery product with the main ingredient of beer! I joined pinterest a few weeks ago and found a blog through a friend with some delicious and interesting looking recipes. The blog that inspired last night’s dinner menu is We were gone all weekend in Cleveland, OH for an outdoor hockey tournament in Progressive Field, where the Indians play. They set up an outdoor hockey rink, an ice skating track and a sledding luge…super fun and such a great idea! Anyways, being gone all weekend, eating every meal out with 21 high school boys consisted of pizza multiple times, buffalo wings, also multiple times, a few burgers and some mac & cheese…needless to say, I was craving something a little different and slightly more gourmet when we got back! Sunday night we settled on fresh ribeyes from the butcher with some pan-fried vegetables (my first vegetables in 3 days)! I knew we would be back late from work Monday night so I decided to make a soup to have on hand that would just need to be heated up when we got home. As usually happens, there was a slight hiccup in our plan. The condo we are renting was sold and the new owner wanted to meet with us so I had to take the train home early from work to get things looking presentable for his arrival! I have been wanting to bake a beer bread to make grilled cheese sandwiches with for a while now and figured this would help make this comfort food tradition become a little more elegant and sophisticated. I quickly whipped up a beer bread and cleaned while it was baking in the oven. I ended up caramelizing some onions in beef broth and Worcestershire sauce to go on the sandwiches as well. The final product was a fantastic twist to the traditional grilled cheese sandwich! Here’s how it all went down:

Creamy Chicken & Rice Soup:

  • 1/2 onion, diced
  • 4 carrots, peeled, diced
  • 3 ribs celery, diced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 8-10 cups chicken broth
  • 2-3 Chicken breasts
  • 1/2 cup rice, uncooked (I used black rice but wild rice would probably be the norm)!
  • 1 t basil
  • 1/2 t thyme
  • 1/2 t sage
  • 3 T flour
  • 1 can evaporated milk
  • 1 T melted butter

I sautéed the onion, carrots and celery in a bit of olive oil until softened, then added in the garlic until fragrant. Then add the chicken broth, chicken, rice and seasonings. Bring to a boil and let boil for 5, then bring to a simmer and cover for 15 or so, until rice is softened. In a separate bowl, mix together flour, evaporated milk and melted butter. (This step can be completely avoided if you have heavy cream on hand, for the first time in my life, I did not)! Add milk mixture to soup once rice is cooked and bring to a boil and cook until thickened.

Beer Bread:

  • 3 cups flour, sifted
  • 1 T baking powder
  • 2 T sugar
  • 2 t salt
  • 1 (12-oz) beer
  • 4 T melted butter

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine flour, baking powder, sugar and salt in mixing bowl. Slowly add in beer, just until incorporated and all flour has been moistened. (Do not overmix this batter or you will end up with a super dense, gummy loaf! Also, it is important to sift the flour or to spoon it into the measuring cups (if you do not have a sifter) because compacting the flour too much will result in the same dense, gummy type of bread). Brush the melted butter over the top of the dough and bake for 45-50 minutes. The greatest part about this recipe is how versatile it is! You can add anything into the batter you want, including pepper, rosemary, Italian seasonings, cheeses, etc! I kept mine plain so I can toast pieces and spread them with peanut butter for breakfast! But I think adding in some black pepper, cheddar cheese and/or rosemary would be delicious for the grilled cheeses!

To assemble the grilled cheese sammies, I buttered two sides of the beer bread and spread Dijon mustard on the opposite sides. I then layered a slice of swiss cheese, Muenster cheese and sharp cheddar cheese, followed by the caramelized onions. We used our Panini maker but a fry pan would work just as well! We were very pleased with the result! Josh went without the caramelized onions for his second sandwich and said he liked it better because he was able to taste all of the different cheeses…personal preference I suppose!
And what else is new!? I am terrible with the whole picture taking thing…I would snap a pic of the beer bread when I get home tonight, but I am pretty sure there is only a slice or two left! I promise to work on this in the future and all of my future posts will have pics!

Pumpkin Bliss!

So to continue with the pumpkin fun, I went out on a limb and tried a new recipe combining two things I usually don’t like together: pumpkin and chocolate. I think the reasoning behind this is that I am not a big fan of cinnamon with chocolate…I like fudgy rich chocolate all on its own or pumpkin pie with all its cinnamon and nutmegy scrumptiousness! But I figured for the sake of the fall season, I’d give them a whirl! Not gonna lie, they’re not my favorite, but I figure I’ll share just in case some of you love the choco-pumpkin combo! You can start with any standard brownie recipe you have/love/typically use or even go with a boxed version to save some time and energy (don’t worry, no one will scoff at the idea)…and then just swirl or layer in the pumpkin cream cheese mixture. Here’s the recipe I used:


  • 5 oz chocolate (I prefer to use semisweet Ghiradelli)
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 T vanilla
  • 1 cup flour
  • Dash of salt
Melt chocolate and butter together in saucepan over medium heat or in a double boiler over boiling water. Remove from heat once almost melted and stir until smooth, and stir in sugar. Add in eggs, vanilla and dash of salt. Fold in flour and pour into buttered pan (I like to use 9X9 because I love super thick, extra rich brownies, but this does increase cooking time and it is standard to use a 9X13 pan)!
Pumpkin Swirl:
  • 4 oz cream cheese
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree
  • 3 T sugar
  • 1 1/2 – 2 t pumpkin pie spice (or cinnamon and nutmeg combo, whatever you prefer)
Beat softened cream cheese with pumpkin puree. Add in egg, sugar and spices. If you put the pumpkin cream cheese layer between half the brownie batter, you can either leave it as a separate layer in the middle of the brownies or  swirl in with top layer of brownie batter. Or just spread it atop the brownie batter and leave it as its own layer on the top…however you prefer, it will taste the same regardless and is more a matter of presentation! Bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes!
Not the best pic but it’ll do!!
I would also like to share with you the easiest recipe in the world. Also one that is perfect for cold nights or when you are feeling under the weather! It is Josh’s family’s chicken noodle soup and it is hearty and delicious and most importantly incredibly easy!
3 chicken breasts
1 bag of shredded carrots or you can shred/dice your own (personal preference)
4 ribs celery, diced
14 cups chicken broth or stock
2 packages Reames Homestyle Egg Noodles
Salt and Pepper to taste
I like to sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper, then grill it before adding it into the soup instead of letting it cook in the soup, I think it adds a bit more flavor! So while that’s grilling, heat up the chicken stock/broth/bouillon cubes and add the diced carrots, celery, salt and pepper. Once boiling, add in the noodles, cook for about 5 minutes then lower heat and let simmer about a half hour. With so few ingredients, the keys here are to use quality chicken broth or stock since it is a main flavor component, to let it simmer for a bit so the chicken flavor creeps into all of the veggies and chicken itself, and to use these particular noodles (they are pretty much the star in this soup, being so thick and gummy)! You can find the noodles in the freezer section of the grocery store, by frozen breads and pastas! Served with take-and-bake ciabatta bread rolls (our personal favorite), this is a great, easy, quick and filling dinner!
 Most of the broth has already been soaked up…easy fix, just add a cup or so more of broth when re-heating!


We picked a few ripened hot peppers from our lovely garden Tuesday morning and didn’t want them to go to waste so Josh requested chili for dinner last night! I decided to let it simmer all day in the crock pot to give the flavors a chance to really meld together and let the spice come through. Tuesday night I prepared the meat, browning it with some diced green pepper, onion, garlic, jalapeno and Habanero peppers (all peppers courtesy of our patio garden). Once cooked through, I added a 15 ounce can of tomato sauce (and about 3/4 full can of water), a can each of red and black beans, 8 tablespoons of chili powder, 2 1/2 teaspoons of each cumin, onion powder, garlic powder, oregano, paprika, salt and pepper (and obviously all of these can be tweeked to personal preferences). I also added in about a teaspoon of cayenne for extra kick (probably completely unnecessary in retrospect, but oh well)! This was for two pounds of 85/25 ground beef. After it cooled down, I left it in the fridge over night and then threw everything in the crock pot the next morning and let it cook on low for about 8 hours. Traditionally in my family, whenever we ate chili, we always put it over spaghetti noodles and topped it with cheddar cheese. I know, I know, us Italians and our breads/pastas, having to be present somehow at every meal of the day! It seemed very strange to me whenever I’d eat chili anywhere else and there would be no pasta, now I realize we were in fact the odd ones! My husband is now a huge fan of this though and also won’t eat chili any other way, so it’s worth giving it a try! I guess it’s our take on good ole fashioned chili mac, chili over mac and cheese…never a bad choice! Anyways, the chili did turn out to be quite spicy, so our garden produced some very useful peppers as we loooove spice in our house! Coming home to an already prepared, ready to eat meal is always a bonus in my book!

And of course, as is the norm, every meal must include dessert to be considered a full meal! So I tried my hand at a German Chocolate cake, something new and different! The inspiration came from my best friend Emily’s birthday party back in May…she had requested a German Chocolate cake and it was absolutely delicious (and ginormous to boot)! There’s a good chance she still has some stashed away in her freezer…she has a bit more restraint than me!


Not too shabby for a first attempt!


My husband and I are obsessed with this little place in Evanston, called Dixie’s Kitchen and Bait Shop that serves what I find to be the best jambalaya ever! (Sidenote: also a favorite little spot for the Obama’s when they are in town)! So we figured, why not try to make our own version! So we downloaded Emeril’s recipe from and altered it slightly and made it into a crock pot recipe.

Monday night, Josh and I cut up some sausage and chicken and defrosted some shrimp in preparation for our very first attempt at making jambalaya. We added some diced green pepper, onion, garlic, jalapeno, celery, and tomatoes along with chicken broth, Worcestershire, frank’s red hot, some olive oil,a few bay leaves and a whole lot of Cajun creole Seasoning and cayenne pepper. BAM!! We let that all marinade overnight in the refrigerator so the flavors could fully meld together.

Yesterday morning before heading out to work, we threw the mixture into the crock pot and set it on low, hoping we would have a delicious dinner waiting for us when we got home! We didn’t add the shrimp or rice into the crock pot since they would overcook so we grabbed white rice from a Chinese Restaurant down the street and pan-fried the shrimp in olive oil and Cajun creole seasoning when we got home! All in all, it turned out delicious! Luckily we both love spicy food because this was very hot! Maybe it was marinating everything together overnight or maybe it was the hot Italian sausage we used in place of Andouille, either way, a definite success in my book!

Here is the recipe we ended up coming up with:

  • 3 chicken breasts, cubed
  • 1 pound hot Italian sausage, sliced
  • Drizzle of olive oil
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 large onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 large tomatoes, chopped
  • 2-3 T Cajun Creole Seasoning
  • 2 t Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 t Frank’s Red Hot
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1 package frozen shrimp, defrosted
  • white rice

I’d love to hear your feedback if you decide to make your own Jambalaya, if you liked this recipe or how you altered it to make it your own!